(Out of Five)


Barry Manilow
 He made the Whole World Sing!


Now, just for the record, I was never a big Barry Manilow fan. 

Sure, I was aware of his existence during the mid-70's, as he sailed up the charts with one hit after another. 

I was also familiar with his songs like "Mandy" and "Can't Smile Without You" and "Weekend in New England;" but, being a teenager who loved Rock-N-Roll, Manilow was just a geek that sang love songs that all the girls went crazy over...That was not  a macho thing in my hay-day.. but, just hearing his songs today take me back in time, after all said, I did grudgingly, buy the single "Copacobana" because I simply couldn't keep still whenever I heard the song but, other than that, I couldn't be more indifferent to Barry Manalow. 

When I purchased my ticket for Barry's then-upcoming concert in Las Vegas in May, it was more out of wanting to make a sentimental journey back in time, to sit back for a couple of hours and enjoy listening to Barry sing the songs that made the whole world sing. Plus I was being given a rare opportunity to see a live Manilow performance. Las Vegas was privileged to be part of Barry's 2003 Concert, and I felt privileged to have in my hands a ticket to that show, just seven rows back, not bad. My wife Tina was thoroughly excited and thrilled to be in the mist of such a heart throb greatness. For me, the fact that my seat was just fifth from the aisle was the most important part of the event; the better to make a quick escape at the end of the show.

It was great evening and hot one in Las Vegas when I settled into my seat in the packed Casino and waited for Mr. Manilow to prove himself to me. My attitude began softening, however, as I took a look around. I stared in amazement at the elaborate stage set; risers and stairs going all over the place, with seating on two levels for Barry's own coterie of musicians. And by showtime there literally was not one empty seat left. 

While the majority of the audience consisted of women from their mid-20's to late 60's, both sexes of the intire age range were well represented. 

Suddenly the house lights went down, and out of nowhere strobes began flashing, and eliciting anticipatory screams from the ladies. Barry's band members, to a man dressed in black, came trooping out in almost military precision and took their places. 

Music was playing, filling the theatre with brass and strings and the entire New York Philharmonic it sounded like; then it suddenly increased in volume (but, thank God and the saints preserve my old ears, not deafeningly so), and when Barry began singing from offstage, the roar from the audience shook the rafters. 

Dressed nattily in a three-piece pinstriped suit, Barry strode onto the stage, mike in hand, embracing the audience with his free arm and his smile, his sentiments coming through loud and clear in his opening number, "I'm Coming Back." I was hooked! 

Just when I thought I'd heard it all, he'd launch into another. But I should have expected it, after all; one of the first things he said when he paused between numbers to address the crowd was, "I've done a lot of songs and I'm gonna sing 'em all, so we're gonna be here all night ... lock the doors!" Barry had people literally dancing in the aisles as he rocked the house. 

I stayed hooked for another two hours, as Barry sailed effortlessly from one hit song to another, seemingly without breaking a sweat. He segued from "Ready to Take a Chance Again" to "Daybreak," the latter an audience-participation song as Barry enticed, "Somebody yell 'One more time!'" (Whereupon we all did.) 

The first act was devoted to what I call the Manilow-Dante classics, from the first phase of Barry's career; and when Barry sat at the piano for his fourth number, the lovely "Mandy," I smiled and settled back in my seat. Somehow, I felt, I'd come home as Barry sang  my teenage self's favorite, "Copacobana." 

When he seated himself at the piano for the final song of the night, "I Write the Songs," I quickly stood up and headed for the doors so as not to get caught in the massive traffic jam.. My wife stayed...of course, after all it's "Barry Manilow" and the show can't possibly be over yet!

So THAT'S what the Big Deal over Barry Manilow! OK, so I admit it, any reservations I may have had before that night were gone forever. Although he'll never take the place of Elvis, Rod Stewart, or the Stones and they rate a top 5 stars in my in my book. Barry has definitely taken over Las Vegas! 

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